Skip to main content

Full text of "A brief sketch of the past, present and prospects of Vincennes"

See other formats





Class I 5"^^ - 

Book J^-^JlS 


□ F THE 

rk^'t, "Pi^e^erit ki)d 'Pi^o^pect^ 


T ■>, 







A. V. Cro-tts' Book and Job Prinling Rooms. 

, % 


I have gathered and grouped together, some matters 
connected with Vincennes, which may be worthy of preser- 
vation. The material used in the preparation is derived either 
from personal ob^-ervation or gleaned from original and 
authentic sources. 


An accurate geodetic survey of the United States is now 
being made under the direction of the Federal Government, 
and Vincennes was selected as one of the stations for obser- 
vation. The station here is situated near the geographical 
centre of the city, in the court house yard, off the north east 
side of the building, and is marked by three stones, set in con- 


Crete, the centre one nearly flush with the surface and bearing 
this mark on its face: 

Latitude of the station point 38° 40' 37". 

Longitude west of Greenwich 5^ 50" 08.88. 

or 87° 31' 28.1 

These are the field results but not likely to be changed 
by a tenth of a sec nd of arc by the final calculations. 

The City of Vincennes is located on the left bank of the 
Wabash River, on the western boundary ot the State of 
Indiana, the river only separating it from the State of Illinois. 
It is distant 192 miles west of Cincinnati, Ohio, 150 miles 
East of St. Louis, Missouri, 236 miles South of Chicago, 51 
miles north of the Ohio River at Evansville, and 117 miles 
south west of Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana. 

The city is located on high ground beyond the possible 
reach of inundation, and is bounded on the north east and 
south west by beautiful and fertile prairie lands, and on the 
south east and north west by a picturesque range of hills, 
covered with forest trees, and presenting an attractive and 
pleasing landscape view. 

The location is peculiarly fortunate and safe, occupying 
as it does a level depression, surrounded on all sides by ele- 
vated grounds and hills, which protect it from the chilling 
blasts of winter, or the destructive storms of summer so prev- 
alent and desolating in portions of the West. The surround- 
ing hilLs operate as a bulwark to divert and elevate the course 
of passing winds, and thus shield and protect it from their 
fury, so that during the long period of time the site has been 
the home of civilization, no occasion for alarm has been fur- 
nished, and not the slightest damage has been done to life or 


property within its limits, on this account, although it has 
numbered among its structures steeples and towers insecurely 
anchored, but which h;ive stood unharmed for years and until 
finally removed by design. 


The topographical and geological site upon which the 
city stands is remarkable and worthy of attention. The en- 
tire area it occupies may be properly called a gravel bank ex- 
tending from the surface to the water line below. No point 
has yet been pierced and penetrated where this formation has 
not been exposed. In 1880 the City authorities excavated on 
Busseron, between Second and Third streets, for a cistern to 
the water line below, and gravel and sand alone were found 
in the progress of the work and at a considerable depth be- 
neath the surface a large isolated lump of coal was found 
imbedded in gravel both above and below. 

The conformation of the surrounding hills indicate that 
in the past, they were the restraining barriers of volumes of 
water, either as a flowing stream or confined lake. Every- 
thing around here of a natural formation indicates the former 
presence and active agency of water, which has been expelled 
from the surface and the site elevated by some mighty up- 
heaval. A similar but gradual and quiet result has been ob- 
servable in progress since the advent of civilized men. My 


grandfather came to this place almost with the prepent cen- 
tury, and for many years after his coming the village was 
annually surrounded by water, and the "Creoles" circumnav- 
igated it in their "pirogues" at flood seasons and unloaded 
their cargoes in the rear of the rise upon which the court 
house stands. 

As late as 1836 the topographical appearance was unique. 
The river front at Hart street was called the ''old stone 
landing," and from that point abruptly rose and extended 
alon r the entire river front to the limits of the city below a 
gravel hill from 15 to 20 feet in height above the present level 
of the city streets. It presented an abrupt face to the river 
but gradually sloped to First street. Between this gravel hill 
and the elevated ground upon which the court house stands 
the village was originally located, and almost entirely below 
what is now Broadway street, and even this space in places 
was unfit for occupation, owing to the presence of surface 
water. From a point near the present intersection of Fifth 
and Perry streets, running diagonally through the town in 
the direction of the public cemetery, the ground was low and 
but little better than a pond. And immediately beyond the 
high ground upon which the court house stands was a pond of 
water several feet in depth, which was sustained throughout 
the year. 

The first road leading from this place was to Louisville, 
Kentucky, in the directien of Petersburg, over the "Buftalo 
trace," so called from the fact that it had been originally 
traced through the intervening forests by the immense herds 
of buffalo that periodically migrated back and forth from the 
blue grass regions of the "dark and bloody ground," passing 
the Kentucky river at the "Great Crossings" in Scott county. 


the Ohio at the falls at Louisville, the Wabash at the ford 
just below, and thence to the rich prairies of Illinois. 

As late as 1845 the road to Louisville passed out of town 
some distance south east of the present location of Callen- 
der's mill, in the direction of Mr. Burnet's residence, and 
passed over what was then an impassible swamp, the road 
way being an artificial construction called ''corduroy," and 
horses and cattle running at large were liable to mire an.v- 
where outside of the roadway itself. 

The town centered at first around the present location 
of the Cathedral. The fort built here by de Vinsenne in 
1702 was located on the river bank between the river and 
the church, according to the uniform custom of the French 
to have the church and fort contiguous to each other. Around 
these as a neucleus the town gathered and sprung up. The 
hotel of Mark Barnett, long the principal one in the town, 
was situated on the river bank below Barnett street; that of 
Peter Jones, of a later da^e, was also on the river bank just 
below Broadway street, and that of Hyacinthe Lasselle, of a 
still later date, was on the west corner of Second and Perry 
streets. The space only between Barnett and Broadway 
streets and extending but a short distance back from the 
river, was occupied by the town. On the north east of the 
town was located the Piankeshaw village and fields. 

Of late years a doubt has been expressed as to the 
location of the fort. But this doubt has been occasioned by 
persons seeking information on the subject and trusting to 
the defective memories of persons living, rather than re- 
liable and authentic sources of information. That the 
church and fort were contiguous to each other is sustained 
by abundant evidence, and the river front adjacent to ihe 



church was always called by old residents of the town the 
''block house lot," and was only subdivided into lots as now 
occupied so late as 1830. And the location of the fort there 
is consistent with all reliable data, and the happening of 
known events connected with the two, and there is no evi- 
dence that the location of either was ever changed from the 
original site, but there is abundant evidence that the loca- 
tion of the church has ever been w^here it is at present. 

The building occupied by the Territorial -Government 
and Legislature during the time this was the capital of the 
Territory, was a frame building of tw^o stories, situated on the 
south west side of Main street, midway between Second and 
Third streets. The building still remains in the city in a 
good state of preservation, although about 30 years it was 
moved from its original location and is now situated on the 
south east side of upper Third street just below Harrison, and 
is occupied as a private residence. 

The first building used for court purposes was built of 
logs, and situated on the north corner of Second and Broad- 
way streets. After it was no longer used for court pur- 
poses it w^as converted into a hospital, and while Fort 
Knox was garrisoned was occupied by sick and disabled 


The second location used for court purposes was the 
west corner of Fourth and Buntin streets, now occupied by 
Judge Niblack as a residence, and the north corner opposite 
thereto was occupied by the jail and stray pen. This site 
w^as acquired from Robert Buntin, but the precise date is 
not known, as the original deed of purchase was lost and the 
record of it destroyed with the burning of the records in the 
Recorder's office, January 21, 1814, and this loss was sup- 
plied by a second conveyance executed May 23d, 1823. 


The^present court house square was acquired by purchase 
from Dr. Jacob Kuykendall, on the 20th of September, 1830, 
and has ever since been 'used for court and other county 

The buihiing occupied by the Bank of Vincennes, subse- 
quently by act of the Territorial Legishiture in 1816, adopted 
as the State Bank of Indiana, and which ffiiled, to the disgrace 
of the State and the management of the bank, and gave rise to 
the celebrated "quo warranto" proceedings in the early judi- 
cial history of the State, was located in a two-story brick 
building on the east corner of First and Broadway streets, 
and the palatial residence of Charles Smith, one of the direc- 
tors at the time of its failure, was on the north side of the 
same street, just opposite. 

The extensive and substantial buildings of the Steam. 
Mill Company were still standing as late as 1844. They occu- 
pied the site of the river side of the park. The mill itself was 
an immense brick building, painted white, tv^o stories high, 
and from the second story extended a long carriage way, over 
500 feet in length to the river at low water mark, upon 
which the supplies of logs floated down the river were car- 
ried into the mill. The Terre Haute State Road passed be- 
neath this log-way, on the riverside of the mill. Immediately 
above the mill was a large and tall brick malt house which 
was connected with the mill by a wooden bridge to the 
second story. And still above was located near where Eb- 
ner's ice house now stands a large distillery. Around this 
mill as late as 1845 there were still standing several large 
two-story brick residences and business houses, more than in 
the remainder of the town, and their surroundings indicated 
that regular streets, and sidewalks paved with brick, had 
been constructed. These were all substantial brick build- 


ings, and finely finished. The Masonic h:ill had been in 
one of these buildings, and the walls were beautifully fres- 
coed and embellished with the symbolical emblems of the 

And so late as 1850 the survey out of which has been 
carved ''Judah's" addition was enclosed with a rail fence and 
used, as all the prairie above it, for farming purposes. The 
area back of the court house was all unoccupied, and only 
used occasionally for horse racing. All that part of the city 
above Hart street was vacant, the only houses being the 
"Harrison Mansion" and the residence of Judge Parke, on 
the river just above Hart street, and the residence of Judge 
Law, also on the river between the other two. The "Mar- 
achal field" extended back in the rear of the Seminar}^ 
grounds from Sixth street to the city limits, and so late as 
1846 was used and cultivated as a corn field until subdivided 
by Alvin W. Tracy, his executor. In 1857 the Lutheran 
church, on Eighth street, w^as the only building of any kind 
in that quarter of the city. 


Was erected soon after the Governor came, which was 
in 1800. It is one of the oldest buildings in the 
city, and is truly an ancient landmark. When occupied 
by General Harrison it was called "Grouseland," and 
was situated on what was called in "Old Virginia" parlance 
"my plantation," and the ground around it was used for agri- 
cultural purposes until he laid out his addition to the borough 
in 1816. It was here the celebrated interview was held be- 
tween the Governor and Chief Tecumseh. The location of 
this historic interview is at this day misplaced much 
in the same way and by similar processes as the fort. My 
grandfather, Elihu Stout, was with Gen. Harrison as one of 
his guards, and he always located it from personal knowledge 
as being on the porch on the south west side of the residence 
in a grove of locust trees, (which were still standing during 
the "hard cider" capaign of 1840, and under them was held 



the great mass meeting and barbecue during that campaign,) 
and they remained standing until the property was acquired 
by Andrew Armstrong, several years later, who cut them 
down. Gen. Harrison during the entire interview with Te- 
cumseh never left the porch, but remained there with his 
guard near him. 


On the square betweeen Fourth and Sixth streets and Perry 
and Hart streets, was one of the first brick buildings erected 
in the city limits, having been built soon after the Harrison 
mansion. It was originally intended for school purposes, 
and was so used under the auspices of the public until the 
property was purchased by the Bishop of Vincennes in 183^, 
when St. Gabriel College was projected and successfully con- 
ducted there until 1845, when the building was converted 
into an asylum for orphan children. It was originally only 
two stories in height, the third story and the east and west 
wings having been added since the property passed into the 
possession of the Bishop of Vincennes. 


Is the oldest institution connected with Vincennes. The first 
building was constructed of logs set up on end and the 
interstices filled with adobe. It contained pews for the 
convenience of worshippers, but was without any floor except 
the earth, and the custom was to bury the dead in the body 
of the church beneath their pews and frequent mention of 
such interments appear in the Western Sun. -^ ^ ^ 
The earliest record preserved in the archives of the Church 
is the marriage of Julien Trattier, of Montreal, Canada, and 
Jasette Marie, daughter of a Frenchman and an Indian. 
The entry is dated April 21, 1749, and is signed by Sebastian 
Louis Meurin, S. J. 

The following is a translation of the entry of the first 
baptism: "June 21, 1749. I baptised John Baptist, son of 
"Peter Siapichagame and of Catharine Mskieve; Francis 
"Filatraux was god-father and Mary Mikitchenseive god- 
smother. Sebast. Lud, Meurin, S. J." 

This is only the record as preserved. It begins without 



title page or introduction, and bears evidence that something 
preceding has been lost or destroyed. 

Madam Trattier, whose marriage is the first recorded act 
as preserved, died in December 1750 and was buried in the 
Church "under her pew on -he Gospel side." 

Of the thirty one priests who officiated in this Church 
from the <late of the above record in 1749 up to the ad- 
vent of Bishop Brute, in 1834, only one died here. Rev. John 
Francis Rivet, who died January 31, 1804. Father Conic 
was for a time parish priest here, but has not been mentioned 
by any one, except Bishop Brute, who has ever written on 
the early history of this church. 

It was in this old log church that the conference took 
place and terms of surrender of Fort Sackville agreed upon 
between Gov. Hamilton and Gen. Clarke, February 27th, 
1779. This original log church fronted the river, and was 
repaired, enlarged and improved from time to time, until 
finally it gave place to the present brick church, the erection 
of which was determined on at a public meeting called for 
the purpose of devising ways and means to erect it, by Rev. 
J. L. Champonier and Hyacinthe Lasselle, on July 24th, 
1825. The corner stone was laid by the Rev. Champonier 
during Easter week, on Thursday, March 30, 1826, and the 
building has been erected, added to and decorated from time 
to time until it has reached its present fini»hed condition, 

Yincennes, as we have already said, has been very fortu- 
nate, and its material structures have been exempt in a re- 
markable degree from injury by fire, flood, or other casualty. 
Yet while it has been a profitable field for the operation of 
fire insurance companies as a general thing, the town has 
sustained on three occasions serious damages by the ravages 
of fire. On October 16, 1841, a fire destroyed all but two or 
three buildings on the north east side of Main, between First 
and Second streets; and on the 6th of December, 1854, all the 
buildings on the north east side of Main, between Second 


and Third, were destroyd by fire; and on Sunday, April 15, 
1860, nine business houses, on the South east side of Second, 
between Main and Busseron streets, were also destroyed 
by fire. 


Has been far above the average of Western towns. Yet in 
1820 a contagious fever, akin in its fatality to the yellow 
fever, almost decimated its population, retarded its advance 
for years, and cast a gloom over its future. This pestilential 
visitation Y\^as due partly to the number of ponds of stagnant 
water that then surrounded it, and even occupied a portion 
of its site, but more especially to the sanitary condition of 
the river during that year, when it was entirely covered Irom 
shore to shore with a rank growth of grass, leaving no chan- 
nel for the flow of the water, which was consequently stag- 
nated and produced miasma and disease. For years after this 
growth of grass continued in the river during its whole 
course, and just opposite the town was the cause of labor, 
trouble and expense to prevent sickness on account of it. 
The growth annually continued during the dry season of the 
year, although gradually diminishing in quantity until as 
late as 1864, since which time, singularly enough, it has not 
appeared, and the entire course of the river is now free 
from this nuisance. 


Vincennes is rich in material of historic interest. There 
centre around her memories of the past, extending beyond 
the recollection of the living, and farther and farther until 
they gradually fade away and are lost and shrouded in the 
mists of conjecture. 



The date when it was first visited by civilized men cannot 
i)e determined with precision. But it was certainly not later 
than 1680. This is not mere speculation, but can be logically 
reasoned out as a necessary ''sequitur" from the happening of 
known occurrences. It was of French origin, and owes its 
early settlement to considerations of military necessity. The 
cabinet directing the affairs of the French nation were aware 
as early as 1650 of the dangers that environed and would in 
the future imperil the integrity of their possessions on this 
continent, and prudently endeavored to counteract them and 
thus perpetuate their sway. Their colonies in the north on 
the St. Lawrence river were separated from those in the 
south on the Gulf of Mexico, and it was necessary for pro- 
tection in a military point of view to connect them by a 
direct line of communication. This could not be done along 
the Atlantic coast, as the English, their hostile and menacing 
rivals, occupied the intervening space in that quarter. It 
was only feasible through the unbroken and unexplored 
wilderness of the West. And this connection through the 
wilds of the West was finally determined on by means of a 
line of forts. But to execute the determination was a work 
requiring time, A survey had to be made and a practical 
route adopted. It required years to explore this vast expanse 
of country through which the proposed connection was to be 
eff'ected. Exploring parties would have to grope their way 
through this extended stretch of wilderness, not only present- 
ing natural obstacles, but filled with savage and unfriendly 
Indian tribes. The entire field, stretching thousands of miles 
had to be viewed in all its parts in order to ascertain the most 
feasible and practicable route. 

The Mississippi river, flowing directly north and south, 
was a natural highway, affording easy ingress into the utter- 
most parts of the north from the Gulf o f Mexico. So, too 
the river St. Lawrence and the great chain of lakes connected 
with it was a natural highway, opening the heart of the conti- 
nent to approach from the Atlantic Ocean. The design was 
to connect the two great natural highways. 


The St. Lawrence water route was continuous from the 
Atlantic Ocean West, almost as far as the headwaters of the 
Mississipi river, as their sources are only separated by a 
narrow divide. It is almost a direct line west from the At- 
lantic 8"eaboard as far as Detroit river. But here its direct 
western course is interrupted and its continuity sustained only 
by the long and tedious passage for hundreds of miles north, 
through the straits of Mackinaw, and then south an equal dis- 
tance. To avoid this circuity and waste of time it was deter- 
mined to commence the projected connection from the Detroit 
river to the Mississippi at the junction of the Ohio. This 
route was practicable. It afforded water communication 
almost the entire distance. The waters of the Maumee, Wa- 
bash and Ohio rivers presented natural facilities for travel and 
transportation, only interrupted by the portage between the 
waters of the Wabash and Maumee rivers. And this divide, 
separating the headwaters of these two rivers is so narrow and 
contracted that the crystal drops falling on the earth from 
their home in the sky are puzzled to determine which course 
to take, whether to seek the cold and sparkling shores of the 
Atlantic through the Maumee or the warm and rosy bosom ot 
the Gulf of Mexico through the Wabash. 

It is matter of history furnished by the Quebec annals 
that the surveys for the route had all been completed- and the 
location of the forts determined on before the advent of 1700. 
The site of Vincennes was selected as the location of one of 
these forts, and in all probability the last one between the 
Lakes and the Mississippi river; for the reason that it was 
from here the northern forces, operating in concert with those 
from Louisiana, rendezvoused and started upon the disastrous 
campaign in 1736 against the Chickasaws. 

It was supposed for a long time that the "Ouabasche'' 
was the river that emptied into the Mississippi. Father 
Marest, one of the Jesuit missionaries, in giving an account 
of his explorations and observations in the West to the Supe- 
rior of his order, according to the rules and customs of his 
order, in a letter still preserved and published in a volume 



entitled "Lettres edificants et Curienses," written from Kas- 
kaskia, November 12, 1712, says: 

"About eight leagues, or 240 miles below this, there 
"empties into the Mississippi another fine river called 'Oua- 
basche.' It comes from the north east." 

Judge Law, in his address on Vincennes, delivered 
February 22, 1839, says: 

"It is a sigular fact that the Wabash was known and navi- 
gated by the whites long before the Ohio was known to exist." 

This fact, however is not sigular when the geographical 
situation of the two rivers is considered. This continent w^as 
first colonized by the diiferent nations of Europe along the 
Atlantic coast. The Alleghany mountains and Blue Ridge 
range were barriers forbidding the discovery and exploration 
of the Mississippi valley except by way of the St. Lawrence 
and its connecting lakes. The country was accordingly first 
visited and explored from the Lake region, and the head- 
waters of the Wabash, being geographically nearer to that 
region, according to the natural order of events was neces- 
sarily first discovered. 

The first of the forts built by the French was near the 
site of the city of Detroit in 1701. The following year three 
others were built. The first one was on the Maumee where 
Fort Wayne now stands, and on the spot where Mass was first 
celebrated by a Jesuit missionary. The outlines of this fort 
remained and were seen by Gen. Wayne in 1794. The second 
was built on the Wabash river below Lafayette, on the 
Wea plains and was called "Ountanon," which was de- 
stroyed by the Indians in 1765. The third was built at this 
place. These three forts were probably built by the same 
man, de Vinsenne, an ofiicer in the French service, and were 
probably constructed in the order named, as that is natural 
and reasonable considering the point where the forces em- 
ployed in building them started to do the work, which was 
from the lakes. 

It must have been late in the fall of 1702 when the forces 
arrived in this place. It was the invariable custom of the 


French in all their explorations and conquests on this conti- 
nent to operate with two forces, the sword and the cross: the 
one representing the civil and the other the spiritual power. 
And accordingly the forces that came here to build the fort, 
and thus lay the corner stone for civilized existence in these 
parts, were accompanied by a French Jesuit Missionary who, 
in the fall of the year 1702, celebrated Mass at this place 
before thousands of astonished savages. The first Mass was 
said near where the Cathedral now stands, and the fort was 
built on the spot, as the fort and the church, according to 
French custom, were concomitants of each other. This holy 
act of the unknown Jesuit iiither may be taken as the date 
when the site of this city was first consecrated and dedicated 
to civilization and Christianity. This occurrence is recorded 
in the Quebec annals, and its authenticity is beyond question 
as any event of the past the knowledge of which we derive 
from history. 

De Vinsenne came and erected the fort in 1702, but did 
not remain here at that time. He returned to the lake region 
and was entrusted with the command of an expedition against 
the Indians in the vicinity of Detroit in 1704. He subse- 
quently returned here and remained in the command of the 
fort here until 1736. He probably returned here soon after 
the campaign of 1704 just referred to, as there is no farther 
mention of him in the Canadian records; and from all the ac- 
counts we have of him he was a remarkable man, and a favor- 
ite and trusted officer in the French service; and it is reason- 
able to conclude he continued in the service without interrup- 
tion. That he returned here after building the fort and his 
northern campaign in 1704 there is abundant evidence to be 
found remaining in the official records at Kaskaskia. He 
married in 1733 the daughter of Philip Longpee, of that place. 
His father-in-law died in Kaskaskia in 1734, and an inven- 
tory was taken of his estate in September of the same year, 
which shows that de Vinsenne was then at the Fort here. 
There are also numerous documents preserved in the record- 
er's office at Kaskaskia signed by him thus: 

''Francois Morgan, de Vinsenne commandant of the troops 
of the King in the fort upon Ouabasche." 


There is also found there record evidence of the ratifica- 
tion of a sale by his wife in 1734, signed by her, ''Madame 
de Vinsenne," which shows that she was then a resident of 
this place. 

In 1736 the French were at war with the Chickasaws, 
who inhabited the country on the Mississippi river midway 
between here and the Gulf of Mexico. It was determined to 
attack them from the north and south at the same time. The 
northern forces were under the general command of M. 
D'Artagnette, and they organized here for the campaign. 
De Vinsenne accompanied and operated under him with the 
troops of the lort here. He was accompanied on that expedi- 
tion by Father Senat, a Jesuit missionary, and who in 1736 
was pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church at this place. Father 
Senat went as the spiritual adviser of the troops. This cam- 
paign was disastrous. The commander, M. D'Artagnette, de 
Vinsenne and Father Senat all lost their lives. Charlevoix, 
in giving an account of this disaster, records the barbarous 
manner in which the wounded and the prisoners were tor- 
tured and burned by the Indians; and makes honorable mention 
of the heroism of Father Senat and de Vinsenne, who scorned 
any attempt to save their lives by flight, but remained with the 
certainty of meeting death in the most cruel and shocking man- 
ner at the hands of the infuriated and victorious Indians 
rather than leave their wounded companions. The retreat of 
the troops was conducted by a young officer, M. de Voisin, 
only 16 years of age, who succeeded in conducting them 
back to the fort here. Up to this time (1736,) this place had 
received many diiferent appellations, but not the one it was 
destined to bear. It had been called "Au Poste," "The Post," 
'Tost Ouabasche," "Post St. Francis Xavier," after the 
church which has always been so styled. But after that dis- 
aster, and the heroic and noble conduct of de Vinsenne and 
the recital of them by those who escaped and returned to the 
fort, it was given to it in order to perpetuate his memory. In 
this connection Bishop Brute says: 

"I find no deliberation, no special act, no express monu- 


ment for the attaching of his name to the place, but we see 
how effectually honorable gratitude has given it his name." 

This place remained in possession of the French until it 
fell into the hands of the British at the close of the French 
w^ar in 1760. It remained in the hands of the British until 
the spring of 1778, when Father Pierre Gibault, Vicar Gen- 
eral of the Bishop of Quebec, who was long the pastor of St. 
Francis Xavier Church here, administered to the inhabi- 
tants the oath of allegiance to the commonwealth of Virginia. 
This oath was administered to them in the old log Church of 
St. Francis Xavier, and then and there by this act Father 
Gibault incorporated this place as part and parcel of the 
American Colonies, which were struggling to maintain the 
Declaration of Independence. In December following the 
administration of this oath by Father Gibault the place was 
recaptured by the English with forces under the command of 
Gov. Henry Hamilton, of Detroit. But it was again captured 
in February, 1779, by the Virginia troops, under Gen. George 
Rogers Clarke, and has ever since been part of the "land of 
of the free and home of the brave." 

The important eras in the history of Vincennes that par- 
ticularly deserve to be specially remembered are these: 

1. The saying of the first Mass by the unknown Jesuit 
Father and the building of the fort in 1702; 

2. The death of de Vinsenne and the name of the place 
in honor and memory of him in 1736; 

3. The first oath of allegiance to the American cause 
administered by Father Gibault in St. Francis Xavier Church 
in 1778; 

4. The final capture by Gen. Clark, and, we hope, its per- 
petual dedication to freedom in 1779. 


As we have already stated, Vincennes was originally 
settled by the French. They came here from Arcadia, or 
New France, as the Canadas were formerly called, whilst they 


were under the jurisdiction of France. In manners, habits 
}ind customs they were similar to the French people every- 
where — vivacious, good natured, fond of pleasure, and 
leisure too. After they came here they intermarried with the 
Indian tribes who inhabited the country on both sides of the 
Wabash, the Mascoutens, the Piankeshaws and the Miamis, 
and from this intermixture of races sprung the ''Creole" 
French that for years was the dominant race in both the 
town and country around here. This mixed stock embodied in 
combination the qualities of the two roots or sources of deriva- 
tion. From the French, vivacity and good nature, and from the 
Indian, wild, raving and irascible traits of character. The 
result was that the Creole population was of a rather wikl 
and intractable disposition, and mingled with it a love of 
ease and pleasure. Labor was distasteful, and was only per- 
formed as a matter of necessity, and not from any desire to 
accumulate worldly goods and possessions. Hunting, fishing, 
dancing and all manner of sports and amusements were culti- 
vated and practiced. The same social status was observable 
here as to-day exists in the French Arcadian settlement of 
of Louisiana back from the Mississippi river. The dance was 
a favorite pastime, and the sound of the fiddle and the tread 
of feet to its strains were more frequent than that of the loom 
and the anvil. Chicken fighting and horse racing were also 
favorite diversions, and all manner of means were resorted to 
by the Creoles to pass away the time and enjoy life. Fight- 
ing was also common, but in good old-fashioned style, and 
only tolerated with such weapons as God and nature fur- 
nished. Up to 1846 the electors were not restricted to the 
townships, but could exercise the right anywhere in the 
county. The great volume of the vote was cast at this place, 
being the county seat. Election day was great day for the 
people and they flocked to the county seat to exercise the 
freeman's right of voting and to see the "sights" usual on 
such occasions. It w^as the time set apart by custom to settle 



disputes by trial by battle and many were settled that way. 
Within my own recollection on election day as many as a 
dozen fights would take place, one after the other, and when 
one of the combatants would say "hold enough," hostilities 
would instantly cease and the difficulty was settled and at 
rest. The main battle ground was the intersection of Main 
and Third streets, and thousands there assembled to witness the 
pugilistic exercises, and elevated places of observation were 
at a premium. 

The only vehicles to be seen on the streets of the old bor- 
ough as late as 1840, were French carts called ''Calesche.'' 
One of them would be a curiosity now. They were tvfo- 
wheeled, of domestic manufacture, and constructed entirely 
of wood, without the use of metal of any kind. They w^ere 
used for hauling wood, produce, and every kind of service, 
and were the only carriages for the use of the family, either 
male or female, and in these carts, the body of which was in 
size and shape very similar to a large sized dry goods box, an 
entire Creole family, man, wife and children, would huddle 
together and jostle along, the horse maintaining a brisk trot, 
and the heads of the entire household bobbing up and down at a 
lively rate. These Creole customs and practices were legiti- 
mate fruits of the blending of the two races. They were pro- 
fessed Catholics in religion, but paid little heed to the pre- 
cepts of the church. When Father Flaget, afterwards first 
Bishop of Bardstown, Ky., came here' as resident pastor in 
December 21, 1792, he tried to curb the people and reform 
their habits and enforce conformity to church discipline. He 
preached to them, and in his sermons condemned balls, dan- 
cing, and all frivolous amusements then practiced, as being 
contrary to the teachings of the church. He encouraged 
agriculture and the mechanic arts, and started a school to 
teach the youth the different trades. He was recalled, how- 
ever, before he succeeded in perfecting a permanent reforma- 



As I have before stated, for a long time the Creole popu- 
lation was the controlling and dominant race element here. 
It was sufficient in numbers and did control all elections. So 
late as 1840, during the ''Tippecanoe and Tyler too" campaign, 
the French vote here was all powerful. And even in 1854 
and 1855, w^hen the Know Nothing party came, like a black 
knight was its visor d^wn, the voting strength of tie "Creole" 
population was upwards of 500 votes. But the days of the "Cre- 
ole" race are about numbered. It is perceptibly dying out and 
disappearing. And this is not a result of emigration, as it is a 
true saying that the "Creoles" never wandered far from the 
homes of their sires, but is due to the wasting and fading away of 
the stock. How many French families, whose members 
were formerly almost as numerous as the leaves on the trees, 
are represented now by no living ones? Where are the 
Busserons, the Lasselles, the Genereux, the Andres, the 
Cardinals, the Bazadones, the Burdalows and the Richard- 
villes? They have almost entirely disappeared. This result 
is in part attributable to the frequent intermarriage of blood 
relations and the consequent impoverishment of the stock, 
and in part also to its having come in contact with the Anglo- 
Saxon, that strong and aggressive blood race, that absorbs, 
eliminates and appropriates all that comes in its way. But 
many of the "Creole" French yet remain with us, and we 
hope may long continue, as there is melody and richness in 
the names of the "Creole" French. 

It was the practice until a very recent period for all can- 
didates for office to form a "caravan," as it was called, and 
perambulate through the county together. It was not cus- 
tomary, in the early history of elections here, to make party 
nominations, and machine politics was unknown, and the 
field was open to all and every one could enter at will and 
the "longest pole knocked the persimmon," Avith better re- 
sults for the public service than under the manipulation of 
bosses and party fealty. 

The population that came here after 1779, when the ter- 


ritory was acquired by Virginia, was principally from Ken- 
tucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina, all slave 
holding States. They brought their slaves with them and 
slaves were hel I here in considerable numbers at the time the 
ordinance of 1787 went into operation. Of course the ordi- 
nance put an end to the tenure of slave property dejure but 
not de facto. Its force was evaded by sundry devices, and a 
plan of "apprenticing" was sanctioned and practiced, to dis- 
guise the holding of slave property under that name. In 
1806, after the organization of the Territorial aovernment, 
the pro-slavery feelings of the people were so strong that they 
attempted to have Congress suspend the operation of that 
ordinance as to slavery upon the plea of State necessity, and 
its accomplishment was only prevented by the firmness of 
President Jefferson, who never was the friend and advocate of 
the extension or existence of slavery, but who said the men- 
tion of it '^filled him with alarm like a fire bell in the night/' 
and that on account of it ''he trembled for his country when 
he reflected that God was just." But although the law forbid 
the holding of slaves they were still held notwithstanding. 
So late as 1830 the Trustee? of the borough of Vincennes 
caused the Marshal of the borough to take a census of its popu- 
lation. He did so, and his official return to the Trustees 
shows the following: 

White males 763 

White females 639 

Free black males 63 

Free black females 63 

Slave males 12 

Slave females 20 

Total 1,560 

And this, notwithstanding the ordinance of 1787 had been 
all the time in force until the State Constitution was adopted, 
which also prohibited slavery in positive terms, and notwith- 
standing the decision of the Supreme Court of the State m the 
Lasselle case, delivered in 1820, which declared all such tenure 



without warrant of law. I find in the files of "The Western 
Sun from 1808 to 1820, frequent advertisements offering 
rewards of $50 and $100 for the return of runawa}^ slaves. 


Vincennes has been in the past a common centre in which 
congregated an array of able, determined and energetic men. 
The most of these became permanent residents. But many 
after a saort sojourn here went elsewhere in every direction, 
to lay the foundation of society in other phices, and to frame 
constitutions and laws for the well being of generations of 
civilized people, and to exercise power and authority over 
countries of vast extent. 

It is impossible in any proper compass to enumerate all 
of these. I will name only chosen examples, illustrative of 
the quality of men who laid the foundation of our social 

I name first the unkrown Jesuit missionary who in the 
fall of 1702 celebrated Mass on or near the present site of 
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, before thousands of assembled 
and astonished savages and the troops of the French govern- 
ment who came here from Canada to build a fort, and who 
thus cast the shadow of the cross for the first time over this 
spot and laid the corner stone of Christian civilization in 
these parts. His name is not recorded in the pages of human 
story, but his act will be remembered and appreciated as long 
as history is faithful to her trust. 

I shall next name that illustrious man in whose honor 
Vincennes was named, who first came here wdth the above 
named Jesuit Father in 1702, who was styled by Rt. Rev. 
Bishop Brute thus: ''Francois Morgan, de Vinsenne," but 
whose correct appellation, I am inclined to believe from in- 
formation furnished me by Edmond Mallet, of the Carroll 
Institute, Washington City, was this: "Jean Baptiste Bissot. 
Sieur de Vinsenne." Rt. Rev. Bishop de la Hailandiere, on 
what authority I do not know, said he was of Irish descent. 


But we think there is no room for a reasonable doubt that he 
was a Canadian by birth and of French origin. He w^as in 
all probability the son of Francis Bissot, a native of Nor- 
mandy in France, who emigrated to Arcadia or New France 
and there married Marie Couillard, a native of Quebec, 
and de Vinsenne was a son of this marriage. He was bap- 
tised at Quebec January 21, 1668. Louis JoUiet, the explorer 
of the Mississippi river, married an elder sister of de Vin- 
senne in 1675, and it is probable that his first experience in 
exploring the wilderness of the West in company of that dis- 
tinguished man in his western travels. 

De Vinsenne was a distinguished officer of the royal 
troops in Canada. He first came here in 1702 and built the 
fort and returned to Canada where he was in active service 
as a military officer in the field. The last mention of him in 
the Canadian records is by Potheric, who refers to him as 
having been sent to command the fort among the Miami?. 
This reference by Potheric w;is written in 1722, but how long 
before he was sent is not stated. The fort among the Miamis 
was the fort at this place. When he came to command the 
fort he remained here permanently, as there is no evidence of 
his ever ever being recalled or having left. He commanded 
the troops from the fort here in the unfortunate expedition 
against the Chickasaw Indians in 1736, and lost his life in a 
battle. After his death, for his bravery and heroic conduct, 
this place wa,i named in his honor, lie left a daughter, 
Mary Theresa, who married Louis De Lisle, from whom the 
De Lisle' of our county are doubtless descended. 

I name Father Mermet, a Jesuit missionary who was the 
first resident pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church at this 
place. Father Marest, in his letter from Kaskaskia, dated 
November 9, 1712, says that he had been sent here, but how 
long before the date of the letter is not stated. He died at 
Kaskaskia in 1736. 

I name Father Senat, the resident pastor of St. Francis 
Xavier Church at this place in 1736 at the time the expedi- 



tiori against the CliickaSciw Indians started from here. He 
accompanied the troops from the fort here on that expedition 
as their spiritual adviser. When defeat came and retreat was 
determined on, the soldiers begged him to return with them. 
But he refused, like a true soldier of the cross, and remained 
to administer the consolations of religion to the wounded 
and dying soldiers. Of course he was captured by the sav- 
ages, and w^as first inhumanly tortured and then burnt at the 

I name Very Rev. Pierre Gibault. He was .the son of 
Pierre Gibault and Marie St. Jean, respectable Canadians, of 
French r)rigin, and was born in Montreal, Canada, April 7, 
1737. He was ordained priest on the 19th of March, 1768, 
and shortly afterwards was sent to the Illinois country as 
Vicar General of the Bishop of Quebec. On his w^ay to his 
missionary field he baptised a child of John Baptiste Cadot 
at Michillemacinac, on the 23d of July, 1768, in the certifi- 
cate to which he styled himself "Vicar General of Louisiana." 
But after his arrival in the Illinois country he styled himself 
''Vicaire Generale des Illinois et Tamarois." He first arrived 
here in 1770, but only remained at that time two months. 
He afterwards returned and was the resident pastor of the 
church here until 1789. In the spring of 1778 he espoused 
the cause of the American Colonies, then struggling with the 
British power for independence, and by his influence over the 
people he gained them all over to the American cause, and 
publicly administered to them in the church the oath of alle- 
giance to the American cause in February, 1778. This was a 
year prior to Gen. Clarke's capture of the place, and Father 
Gibault has the honor of having first secured the good will 
and transferred the allegiance of the people to the American 
cause. He rendered Gen. Clarke invaluable service when 
he came the following year. He petitioned the Government 
for a small donation of land and Gov. St. Clair in his report 
forwarding it to the Department says "that he vvas very use- 
ful to Gen. Clarke upon many occasions and has suffered very 


heavy losses." His moderate request liowever was never 
granted,, and he died very poor at Kaskaskia or St. Genevieve 
or Cahokia. 

I name Gen. George Rogers Clarke, a native of Virginia, 
who was entrusted by Patrick Henry in 1777, then Governor 
of Virginia, with the command of an expedition against 
Kaskaskia. He captured that place and Cahokia in 1778, and 
then directed his efforts against the British in possession of 
this place under Gov. Hamilton. And after a difficult and 
dangerous march in the winter, wading the swollen streams that 
lay in his way, he finally arrived here and captured the place 
February 27th, 1779, and the North West territory w^as then 
Avrested from British rule and dedicated to freedom, and has 
so remained to the present time. The conference to ar- 
range the terms of surrender between Gen. Clarke and Gov. 
Hamilton was held in St. Francis Xavier Church, near the 
lort, while Father Gibault was pastor. Gen. Clarke and his 
troops, for their services in capturing the fort, w^ere after- 
wards rewarded by extensive grants of land. Gen. Clarke 
died at his residence called "Locust Grove," near the city ot 
Louisville, Kentucky, on the 13th of February, 1818, and 
was there buried with imposing ceremonies and the honors 
of war. 

I name Colonel Francis Vigo, a native of Mondovi, in 
the Kingdom of Sardinia, where he was born in the year 
1747. He left his native country at an early age and went 
to Spain, where he enlisted as a Spanish soldier. He was 
sent on duty as a soldier to New Orleans, vfhere he soon left 
the military service and became an Indian trader and rapidly 
accumulated means. He left New Orleans and went to St. Louis 
the better to carry on his traffic w^ith the Indians. He ardently 
espoused the American cause, and was one of the principal 
men on the Mississippi river, in the neighborhood of St. 
Louis, at the time of Gen. Clarke's expedition against Kas- 
kaskia, and after his capture of that place it was Col. Vigo 
who suggested and urged the subsequent expedition of Clarke 


against this place, which was no part of the duty assigned 
him in the commission of Gov. Henry. Col. Vigo furnished 
his private means to Gen. Clarke to fit out the expedition and 
aid in making the capture. Without his aid and means it 
would not have been undertaken or carried out to a successful 
result. Henry Clay, when he visited this place in 1817, was 
tendered a public reception, and in the course of a speech he 
then delivered alluded to Col. Vigo and the invaluable ser- 
vices he had rendered Gen. Clarke and the entire country. 
He petitioned Congress simply for reimbursement for his out- 
lays, but his petition was never granted. The year before his 
death he was sick at Baptiste LaPIante's, and Bishop Brute 
called to see him, and in the course of conversation Col. Vigo 
referred to his pending claim before Congress, and told the 
Bishop when paid the Church should have it, and that it 
w^ould be paid if there was justice on earth. He was for many 
years a practical Catholic, and one of the trustees of the 
Church here from 1810 to 1821. He died very poor, March 
22, 1836, without the consolations and comforts of his religion, 
and was buried in the public cemetery w^ith the honors of war. 

I name General W^ Johnston, a native of Culpepper 
county, Virginia, who came to this place and located in the 
year 1793, and remained here continuously in the active prac- 
tice of the law until his death, which occurred October 26, 
1833. He was one of the most prominent members of the 
bar during his day, was called by his fellow^ citizens to fill 
many offices of trust and profit under the Territorial Govern- 
ment and the Borough of Vincennes, was President Judge of 
the Circuit Court, was frequently a member of the Legisla- 
ture from this county, and who made the first compilation of 
the laws of the Territory. 

I name Gen. Hyacinthe Lasselle, of French ancestry, 
who first came to the Wabash country in 1797, and in the 
year 1804 settled in this place and remained here until he 


removed to Logunsport, Ind , in the year 183-3. When Capt. 
Taylor was promoted Colonel for his gallant defense of Fort 
Harrison in 1813, Gen. Lasselle succeeded him in com- 
mand of that fort. He was during his long residence 
here one of the prominent citizens o: the place, and kept the 
principal hotel in the town on the west corner of Second and 
Perry streets, in a large frame building which was destroyed 
by fire in 1871. He died at Logansport, Indiana, on the 23d 
of January, 1843. 

I name General William Henry Harrison, who was born 
at Berkeley, Virginia, a descendant of Revolutionary ancestry 
and the son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence- 
He came here with the advent of the century and the Terri- 
torial government of Indiana as the First Territorial Governor, 
and resided here with his family in his mansion on his planta- 
tion adjoining the town, called "Grouseland," from 1800 to 
1812. He was the patron of learning and genius, and was 
the founder of the Vincennes library and University, the hero 
of the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, and was elected in 1840 
the ninth President of the United States and died the incum- 
bent of that office April 4, 1841, and was buried and now 
rests on the banks of the Ohio at North Bend, a few miles 
below Cincinnati. 

I name Gen. John Gibson, who was born in Lfin caster, 
Pennsylvania, in May, 1740, the first Secretary of the Indiana 
Territory, who came here with Gen. Harrison in 1800, and 
remained here until April, t813, when, as acting Governor 
of the Territory, he removed with the Territorial Government 
to Corydon. Gen. Gibson was in every sense of the word an 
honest man. During his long official life he was always above sus- 
picion, and left behind him the record of a life without spot or 
blemish. He had seen much service in the Indian wars. He 
was the interpreter to whom Logan, the Mingo chief, delivered 
the speech which has been immortalized by Jefferson in his 


notes on Virginia. Ho died at "Braddock's Fiel<Is," near 
Pittsburgh, Penn., at the residence of George Walhice, his 
son-in-law, on Aprill 19, 1822, in the 82d year of his age. 

I name Gen. Zachary Tayh)r, a Virginian by birth and 
education who came here a stranger, both to fortune and fame 
as a United States officer in command of the troops at Fort 
Knox, who began his career here and gained his first military 
distinction by his gallant defence of Fort Harrison in 1813. 
who resided here with his family, where some of his children 
were born, and who finally reached the highest dignity on 
earth as the twelfth President of the United States, and died 
during his term, July 4, 1850. 

I have specially named the foregoing as marked and dis- 
tinguished characters in the history of Vincennes. I also 
deem it proper to briefly refer to others as deserving of par- 
ticular mention in the same connection. 


Who was born in Hampshire county, in the State of Virginia, 
in the year 1770, and who was there educated and prepared 
for the practice of medicine, and removed to this phace and 
})ermanently located in the year 1799, and continued in the 
active practice of his profession until his death. The present 
court house square Avas acquired by the county by purchase 
from him September 20, 1830. He died Sept.^5, 1833. 


V/ho was a native of the State of New Jersey, and at an early 
age came West and first located at Lexington, Kentucky, but 
who came to this place almost with the organization of the 
Territorial Government, who brought with him a hand- 
some patrimony, afterwards doubled in amount by the dowry 
of his wife; who founded the "Western Sun" newspaper July 
4, 1804, the pioneer newspaper within the territory now 
embraced by the State of Indiana, continued its publication 
under difficulties until November, 1845, for many years from 


the first publication, transporting his material on pack horses 
from Louisville, Kentucky over the old "Buffalo Trace,'' and 
received for his labors a compensation for it per annum less 
than the present monthly receipts of the same establish- 
ment; who died here in April, 1860, and was laid to rest in 
the public cemetery, leaving behind no evidence of any neces- 
sity of taking an inventory of his estate. 


A native of the State of Virginia, a blood relative of the cel- 
ebrated John Randolph, of PtOAnoke, and by affinity with the 
author of the Declaration of Independence. He was both a . 
scholar and an orator, and came here soon after the organi- 
zation of the Territorial Government in quest of fame and 
fortune with many other aspiring and adventurous young 
men. He was a candidate for delegate to Congress in 1809, 
and was defeated by Jonathan Jennings by a majority of 43 
votes, a result brought about on account of his coming from 
a slave State, nnd being a particular friend of Gen Harrison, 
who was suspicioned to have pro-slavery feelings. The charge 
that Mr. Randolph was friendly to the institution of slavery 
and in favor of suspending the operation of the ordinance 
of 1787 prohibiting it, was denied by him in his public 
speeches and printed declarations while he was a candidate. 
And after his defeat he publicly declared it had been brought 
about by this Mse and glanderous charge, and induced him 
to call upon some of the reputed authors of it to meet him 
upon the field of honor, which was, however, declined. But 
the bare suspicion created in the minds of the electors by the 
charge caused his defeat. This result may be considered 
cumulative evidence of the repugnance with which slavery 
has been regarded by disinterested men. 


Who was born in Fayette county, Pennsylvania, in 1774, and 
who came here soon after the organization of the Territorial 
Government and located permanently. He was an educated 

32 -' nniEF sketch of the 

man ami a skill iul physician and surgeon, and for near 40 years 
was at the head of his profession in this place. He took an 
active part in political matters and was a decided opponent of 
slavery, and he did as much perhaps as any single individual 
except President JeiTerson to prevent the suspension of the 
ordinance of 1787 prohibiting it in the Territory, and whose 
only reward for his efforts in this behalf was to be publicly 
posted as a coward and poltroon because he had the moral 
courage to do that which the great Hamilton had not 
to do, and this was allowed without rebuke. He died very 
suddenly, August 25, 1884. 


A native of Switzerland, the friend and companion of Albert 
Gallatin, through whose influence he received the appoint- 
ment of Register of the land office here, and who came as such 
officer with the organization of the Territory and held it con- 
tinuously until compelled by ill health to resign it in 1836. 
He discharged the complex duties of that important office with 
such precision and correctness that no errors were ever found 
m his work. He was a member of the convention that framed 
the first Constitution of Indiana. He lived without an enemy, 
and died regretted on July 29, 1837. 


Who was the first Receiver of Public Monies at this place, 
and came here at the beginning of the century and remained 
here until his death. He was an active and energetic man, 
and was a prominent actor in all enterprises originated and 
designed to promote the prosperity of the town, both mer- 
cantile, manufacturing, commercial and educational. He was 
removed from office on account ot rumors of malfeasance, but 
of which there was no evidence, the rumors originating with 
those who, to advance their own, would tarnish and blast the 
reputation of their neighbor. He died and was buried here. 


Who was born in the State of New Jersey, September 2d, 
1777 and came here in 1801. He filled many offices under 
the Territorial Government, was a Delegate in Congi^ess for 
the Territory and was appointed Jud'^e of the United States 
Court for the District of Indiana. In order to be able to bet- 



ter discharge the duties of that office he removed to Salem, 
In(iiaiia, where he resided until his death, August 12, 1835. 


Of the United States army, a chivalrous and gallant youu^ 
officer, who Avas here in command of the troops at Fort Knox, 
and while in such command was killed in a duel with Irvin 
Wallace, on the 14th of October, 1813, which was fought on 
the Illinois side of the Wabash river about half a mile below 
the town. 


Who came here during territorial days and began the prac- 
tice of law, and who was appointed one of the Judges of the 
Supreme Court of Indiana, to fill a vacancy created by the 
death of John Johnson, Sept. 10, 1817, and who remained on 
the bench of the Supreme Court continuously until Janu- 
ary 3d, 1853. He was afterwards appointed a member of the 
United States Court of Claims. Judge Blackford was a 
student and a sound lawver but could lay no claim to elo- 
quence, and was not highly esteemed as an advocate. His 
memory will be perpetuated in Indiana through the admira- 
ble decisions he delivered while on the Supreme bench, and 
eight volumes of its reports which he prepared and published. 


A native of New^ London, in the State of Connecticut, where 
he was born October 2d, 1796. He came and located here in 
1817, and commenced the practice of the law. He was young 
and unmarried when he came, and married Sarah Ewing, a 
daughter of Nathaniel Ewing. His talents and eloquence 
gave him prominence from the start, and he rose rapidly at 
the bar and in public estimation, and for more than a quar- 
ter ot a century he was a central figure and factor in all enter- 
prises and projects calculated to advance Vincennes; he was 
afiivorite citizen, and on'the 22d of February, 1839, delivered 
an address on the early settlement of the town before the 
Vincennes Historical and Antiquarian Society, which is yet 
remembered and spoken of with pride and pleasure by the 
people. He held and honorably filled many public offices of 
trust. He was Prosecuting Attorney, Judge of the Circuit 
Court for two terms, Receiver of Public Monies, Commis- 
sioner to adjust land titles in the Vinncenes Land District, 


and twice a member of Congress from this district. He was 
for many years prominently named as a, candidate for United 
States Senator. Before his death he removed to Evansvillf, 
Ind., where he died October 17th, 1873, but his remains 
according to his request when living were brought here for 
interment and now mingle with the dust of the tow^i and 
among the people he served and loved so well. 


A scholar, a Christian, and an orator, who was a native of the 
State of Maryland, married into the family of Charles Carroll 
of Carrollton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, who came here soon after the organization of the 
State, and located for the practice of law. His probity, gen- 
tility and uprightness caused him to rise rapidly in public 
estimation and enabled him very soon to occupy the front 
rank at the bar. He was a favorite of the people at the time, 
and a brilliant • and splendid future was before him, but his 
career here Avas cut short and abruptly terminated by the 
unfounded and insane utterances of the wife of the Librarian 
of the Vincennes Library, that he ]iad addressed to her ama- 
tory letters, delivered through the books returned by him to 
the library, but which reports found no lodgment in the pub- 
lic mind, but were properly placed to the credit of a diseased 
and disordered mind, but wdiich, however, were sufficient to 
operate on a noble and sensitive man, as to induce him to ter- 
minate his career in and connection with the place forever. 


Was a native of the State of North Carolina. He graduated 
at the University of that State, and studied law and began 
the practice at Henderson, in his native State. He soon de- 
termined to seek fame and fortune in the young and growing 
West. He came to Indiana, in 1816, and first located at 
Princeton. He was soon after elected President Judge of 
the first Circuit Court, and remained .on the bench for three 
years, when he resigned to commence practice at the bar. 
He removed to this place in 1820, and was at once recog- 
nized as the ablest member among the many distinguished 
and able jurists who then were members of the Vincennes bar. 
A bright future of honor and usefulness was before him, but 
the hopes of his friends were not realized, owing to his death. 


after a long and painful illness, Dec. 18, 1H22. Judge Han 
was a very exemplary man, and was sincerely mourned by his 
brethren of^ the bar and the people generally. Judge Law 
delivered a fine eulogy at his obsequies. 


A learned man and a just judge, who presided in the Circuit 
Court of this Circuit, as President Judge for several years? 
with ability and general satislaction. He was elected in 
November, 1824, to Congress over Thomas H. Blake, to fill a 
vacancy created by the death of William Prince. He never 
married but was engaged to Ellen Ag;m, an accomplished lady 
of Kentucky. He went to Louisville prior to his nuptials, 
and his many friends here were startled by the announcement 
that he was found dead in his room at the Lunatic Asylum, 
at Frankfort, Kentucky, on April 20, 1826. He committed sui- 
cide by hanging with a silk handkerchief. Thus the Judge who 
presided at the trial, nnd whose melancholy duty it was to pro- 
nounce sentence of death upon the only two persons who have 
been executed in accordance with a judicial sentence, finally met 
death in the same way. ^He must have lost his reason ^after 
leaving here for Kentucky, as the news of his death was the 
first intimation to his friends that anything was wrong with 
him. He was at the time of his death practicing law with 
Samuel Judah. 


A native of Lunenburg county, Virginia, who came here soon 
after the ori;anization of the Territory and located for the 
• practice of law. He possessed a strong mind, had the advantage 
of a classical and legal education, and was appreciated by the 
people and rose rapidly to distinction in his profession, and 
places of trust and profit. He was one of the Judges of the 
General Court, and upon the admission of Indiana into the 
Union as a State was elected as one of the Senators to repre- 
sent her in the Senate of the United States. He took his seat 
in that body on the 12th of December, 1816, and drew the 
short term, his colleague, James Noble, drawing the long 
term. His term expired March 3d, 1819. He died at his 
mother's residence in Lunenburg county, Viri^iania, August 
26, 1826. 



That versatile, eccentric and irascible genius who claimed 
during life to have been born beneath the ''stars Jin'd stripes" 
in II ship on the ocean, but after his death his naturalization 
papers, granted by the Marine Court of Baltimore, were dis- 
covered, and fixed his nationality on the ''green isle of the 
ocean." He came here a merchant prince, and died after a 
long residence a pensioner on charity. He was a popular 
favorite, and held many offices of trus". He was a member 
many times of the house and Senate from this county in the 
State Legislature. Held many offices under the borough and 
city governments of this place, and was twice elected a mem- 
ber of Congress from this district. He possessed a diamond 
mind, which was polished and shone all the brighter from the 
friction of adversity. He never married, and had no ndatives 
here. He died on April 6th, 1858, and was buried in the public 
cemetery on a lot by himself, and thus sleeps his last sleep as 
solitary as he had lived. 


Who first located here when he came to the State, and for 
many years practiced law at the bar of this county. He mar- 
ried here and laid the foundation of his subsequent brilliant 
career in this place. He was one of the most gifted and elo- 
quent men Indiana has ever sent to the National Council. He 
represented his district with marked ability for one term in 
the House of Representatives, and served one term in the 
United States Senate. At the Baltimore convention of 1844 
he was the favorite orator among all the distinguished men 
there present from all parts of the Union. After a varied 
and brilliant career he died in St. Louis broken-hearted occa- 
sioned by the homicide of his brother-in-law at his hands, 
brought about by an insane impulse, the result of dissipation. 


A native of Somerville in the State of New Jersey, and a 
graduate of Princeton College. He was a man of amiable 
manners, and was a favorite with the people and the members 
of the bar, of which he was a prominent member. His integ- 

PAST, prese::t and fospects, of viycENyEs. 37 

rity and legiil acquirements secured him uiiiversal esteem. 
He died while still a young man on tlie 22d of February, 1822, 
and at the time of his death was President Judge of the Cir- 
cuit Court. 


A native of the State of New York, who '>vas an eminent 
physician and surgeon, an agreeable and sociable man, whose 
house was the central point of attraction of society in his day. 
He was Receiver of Public Monies here, and as such official 
was the intended victim of the author of the ''Cottrel letters," 
but which eflusions, boomerang like, recoiled nnd spent the 
force of th«ir destructive qualities upon the suspected author, 
and only served to polish the reputation and name of the 
intended victim. He died Satur lay, November 1, 18B4. 


A son of Gen. tiarrison, and the second Receiver of Public 
Monies at this place. He held piany offices of trust under the 
borough organization, and took a deep interest in all social 
a^id literary matters, and w;is the charm of the social circle 
during his residence here. Upon the occa*on of his leaving 
the place a public reception was tendered him by the citizens, 
at which he delivered a farewell in which he said: "I had 
fondly hoped to spend my life here, but find I cannot, but I 
can never forget the place or the friends I leave behind me." 
He died at his father's house, at North Bend, on Saturday, 
October 30, 1830, of typhoid fever, in the 32d years ot his age. 
We extract from the notice of his death in the "Western 
Sun" as follows: 

''No circumstances could have produced a greater panic 
"upon the citizens of our borough than the melancholy intel-^ 
"ligence. Known to u^ as he was from the playful m,orn of 
'infancy, through the budding hopes of manhood, to the riper 
''years of man. To say that his grandfather, Benjamin Har- 
"rison, signed the Declaration of Independence — that his 
"father was the beloved General of our citizens when soldiers 
"in war, or that the dearest pledge he had in life was the only 
'•child of the brave Pike— were nothing. His was no bor- 
"rov/ed lustre; himself stood forth the possessor of every qual- 
"ification which makes the truly good citizen." 




Was born in the city of New York in the year 1798. He 
came to the State of Indiana in the year 1818, at first located 
at Merom, in Sullivan county, but soon after removed to this 
jjlace, where he located and remained in the practice of the 
law until his death. He was married at Corydon, Indiana, to 
Harriet Brandon, a daughter of Samuel Braudon, one of the 
first printers to the Territory and State, by Rev. Mr. Wil- 
liamson, on June 22, 1825. He was justly regarded as one 
of the most eminent jurists in the West. He was engaged in 
some way in almost every important case that originated here. 
He was the chief counsel for the Vincennes Univeri^ity in the 
long judicial struggle between the State and the University, 
involving the title to the township of land in Gibson county 
granted by the General Government for the use of a Univer- 
sity, and after many conflicting decisions in the case between 
the Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of this State and 
the Supreme Court of the United States, he finally triumphed, 
and secured for the University here the endowment fund no^ 
enjoyed by it. Hi was also engaged in many important suits 
in other States, and was associated with Henry clay and other 
distinguished lawyers in the prosecution and defence of im- 
})ortant causes, iie was United States District Attorney for 
Indiana, and several times represented this county in the 
State Legislature, and was Speaker of the House. He died 
in this place April 24, 1869. 


The first Bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes. He was born 
in the city of Rennes, France, March 20, 1779, of noble par- 
entage. He was educated in the best institutions of France, 
and a glorious field was open to him. in his native country. 
But he turned from it and decided to enter the ministry 
and devote himself to missionary work. in this country. 
He arrived at Baltimore with Bishop Flaget Angus! 10, 1809, 
and was first employed in teaching in Mount St. Marys' Col- 
lege, Emmittsburg, Md. He was taken from his duties at 
that College and appointed the first Bishop of the newly cre- 
ated diocese of Vincennes. He was consecrated such Bishop 



by Bishop Flaget, in St. Louis, and in company of Bishops 
Flaget and Purcell arrived at this place November 5, 1834, 
and the same day was duly installed as Bishop. He was a 
very learned man and a hard student. He survived his 
appointment as Bishop but a few years, but lived long enough 
to do much good, and laid a solid and enduring foundation 
upon which his successors have builded. He did much in 
the way of investigating and making known the early history 
of this historic phico and other places in the West. He died 
June 26, 1839, and his remains now lie in a vault behind the 
alta^ in the chapel under the Cathedral alongside of all the 
dead Bishops of the diocese. I extract from the "Western 
Sun" of June 29, 1839, the following notice of his death: 
''The news of his death produced a general and unanimous 
''expression of grief among our citizens. He was to all a 
"pattern of goodness, morality and pure piety. * * ^-"^ 
"During the short time that he was the head of the Catholic 
"Church in this Diocese, much has been done for the Chris- 
"tian religion. * * ^ His charity to the poor was almost 
"unbounded, and he denied himself the comforts of life for the 
"purpose of assisting the poor. Besides the individual chai-- 
"ities which he bestowed, he established at this place, at his 
"own expense, a free school for indigent male children, and 
"also one for female children." 


The pastor of the Presbyterian Church of this plnce for many 
years, who died December 20, 1827. He was a general favo- 
rite among all classes of citizens, and his memory is still fresh 
in the recollection of those living who knew him. I extract 
from his funeral notice in the "Western Sun," January 12, 
1827: "In the death of this worthy and pious man, society is 
"bereaved of one of its most useful and amiable members. 
The general gloom spread over the country; the number, larger 
"than we have ever witnessed here on a similar occasion, who 
assembled to pay the deceased the last solemn tribute of their 
respect; the tears of affection and friendshij) shed upon his 
grave, are evidences strong and clear of the worth of our 
departed friend." 




That erratic political parson, who discoursed heavenly melo 
dies from the pulpit on Sunda^^s and martial strains from tlie 
hustings on week days, was the fiist pastor of the Episco[):il 
Church at this jjlace. He came here a young man and located, 
and was engaged in teaching, preaching, and to some extent 
in. politics, .se was once a State Senator from this distiiot. 
He was regarded as one of the most eloquent men oi his time. 
His welcome address to Lafayette, delivered at Louisville on 
behalf of a committee of citizens of this place who went there 
to pay their respects to that distinguished visit )r in 1825, 
was pronounced by him. as one of the finest delivered at any 
of his receptions. He died in IVxas under a clouded reputa- 
tion, and his death was in all probability the result of vio- 
lence. But he hnd lived long enough to demonstrate that 
splendid abilities and morality are not always found in com- 


A native of New England, who came to this place and began 
the practice law. He was small of stature, yet for many 
years he was the "Great Mogul" in the aifairs of the borough. 
He was also the political "I am" in this section of the State, 
and made and unmade men and measures at his will and pleasure 
He was Judge ol the Probate Court, and was also State Sen- 
ator for two terms. He possessed neither elegance of diction 
nor eloquence of expression; he was not a student and was 
superficial in legal and literary attainments, but he managed 
in some way to acquire a wonderful influence, amas^d and 
controlled large sums of money, built a palatial residence, but 
lived long enough to survive his popularity and better days. 
He died in October, 1864, in embarrassed circumstances. 


A native of the State of Maryland, who came to this place 
and engaged in various pursuits, dividing his time between 
the practice of law, merchandizing and the quest of office. 
He was very plausible and mingled freely with the people, 
and for a time became a popular favorite. He was Judge of 
the Probate Court, very often represented this county in the 


State Legislature, and was once Speaker of the House of Rep- 
resentatives. He was also receiver of Public Monies. Pie 
finally placed his affections on the Circuit Judgeship, but lost 
the nomination for it in 1858 and his reason at the same time, 
and although still alive in a Western State, has since given 
no evidence ot any social, moral or intellectual life. 


Who WHS born in Rutland, Vermont, December 29, 1793, 
and came to this place in 1814, following the course of nature 
in his coming and going — he came poor, embarked in com- 
mercial pursuits, obtained possession and control of a super- 
fluity of this world's goods, directed mercantile, agricultural 
and manufacturing interests, controlled financial institutions, 
exceeded the limit of four score and ten years allotted to man 
on earth, and finally died very suddenly at his breakfast table 
in February, 1882, leaving nothing upon which administration 
could operate. 


A native of Homer, in the State of New York, who located 
here soon after the admission of the State into the Union and 
engaged in mercantile pursuits. He was attentive to busi- 
ness and was rewarded by a success that has been excelled by 
no one here. He never allowed himself to be drawn from his 
chosen pursuit, and was never a candidate before the people 
for any office. He held for a short time the position of Treas- 
urer of the Knox Insurance Company, the only position outside 
of his private business he ever held. He accumulated a 
large fortune, both real and personal. The real estate he ac- 
quired remained with him as it were in mortmain, and only 
passed from him by the operation of the statute of descents. 
He was a member of the Presbyterian Church. He died 
almost instantaneously December 5. 1859, of heart disease, the 
death stroke fiilling upon him when he was attending to his 
business in his store. He left a large estate which has been 
preserved and increased by his children. 


Who was born in Hagorstown, Maryland, August 10, 1798, 
and came here when a young man to grow up with the coun- 
try. He engaged actively in mercantile pursuits and pros- 



pered in all his undertakings. In conjunction with two of his 
brothers, John and William J., he formed in 1835 the almost 
historic firm of J. S. and W. J. Wise, which occupies the 
singular distinction of never having been dissolved or liqui- 
dated, but went out of existence b>\the death of all the mem- 
bers. Mr. Wise was an active politician, and stood well with 
his party and exercised a controlling influence. He was a 
firm and devoted friend and admirer of Calhoun, an ardent 
and ultra advocate of State rights, and of a strict construc- 
tion of the Federal Constitution and against its assumption of 
doubtful powers. He was Receiver of Public Monies under 
President Polk. This was the only office he ever sought or 
held, preferring to work in the ranks. He died almost instan- 
taneously of apoplexy November 3, 1855. 


A native of Essex county, in the State of New Jersey, where 
he was born September 14, 1790. He came West and first 
located at Cincinnati, but soon came and located at this place, 
where he remained until his death. After locating here he 
commenced a business which he continued without interrup- 
tion. He strictly attended to his own business, and never 
sought for gain outside of his private business pursuits. He 
was one of the first of our citizens to engage in produce specu. 
lations, and he carried on a heavy business in that way with 
New Orleans. But his financial success was due to his man- 
ufacturing business, and but little of his large fortune was 
made outside of that. He died August 1, 1871, leaving a rep- 
utation without a blemish, and a large estate, which has since 
been prudently managed by his children. 


Who was one of the original founders of the manufacturing 
industries of our city. He was energetic in the prosecution 
of his business, and was largely employed in both manufactur- 
ing and commercial pursuits. His business career was marked 
by many reverses incident to the hazardous and fluctuating 
enterprises in which he engaged, but his courage a,nd deter- 
mination never forsook him, and by his indomitable will he 
always rallied after a reverse of fortune, and by industry 
and prudence finally achieved a financial victory and accumu- 


latcd a handsome estate. He was one of the piHars and sup- 
port of the Christian Church in this place, and did more for it 
perhaps than any other single individual. He was active in 
the support of all measures and enterprizes for the promotion 
of the growth and interest in the place. He was very often 
chosen by his fellow-citizens to assist in the management of 
the municipal affairs of the town as one of the Trustees. He 
died in the year 1866. 


Who was born October 12, 1780, in Dinwiddie county, Vir- 
ginia, but who came here from Baltimore, Maryland. He 
may be justly regarded as the founder of the manufacturing 
industries of our town. He was very wealthy when he came 
here and located, and used his means freely to advance the 
material interests of the place, and the very many substantial 
and costly structures for manufacturing, business and resi- 
dence purposes erected by him, and which still remain, bear 
witness to his enterprise and public spirit. He began the 
manufacture of cotton yarn in this place many years ago, 
erecting for that purpose a large and costly factory, which is 
still numbered among the manufacturing structures of our 
city, and in the prosecution of this business gave employ- 
ment to hundreds of both males and females. He was also at 
the same time extensively engaged in mercantile and agricul- 
tural pursuits. He was for many years the leading business 
man in this place, and was President of the Branch at this 
place of the State Bank of Indiana, and had a controlling in- 
fluence over all financial matters. The dangers and risks 
incident to his business ventures finally involved him in finan- 
cial ruin and the loss of all his property, and for several years 
prior to his death he lived in poverty and total blindness. 


Who was born December 25, 1793, in Boston, Massachusetts, 
and came to the Wabash country in 1815, as a traveling clock 
peddler, but in 1816 he permanently located in Vincennes, 
and was among the first to engage in manufacturing. He 
commenced the battle for fortune with but little, but by pru- 
dence, industry and economy he gradually worked his way 
up, and succeeded in accumulating a handsome estate and 


establishing ;i business which was not terminated by his death 
but has been continued and increased by his son, Elbridge G. 
Gardner. He was generally respected for his honesiy and 
fair dealing, and was very popular with the masses and always 
ran ahead of his party when a candidate for the suffrnges of 
the people. He was frequently honored with official positions 
of trust and profit. He was an exemplary member of the 
Methodist Church. He led a quiet, unassuming and Christian 
life, and no one who knew him failed to love and honor him. 
He died Janu;iry 5, 1860. 


A native of VVirtemberg, Germany, who came and located in 
this place prior to 1800 and engaged in the fur trade and was 
financially very successful. He was often chosen one of the 
Trustees of the old Borough, and was for many years an active 
Justice of the Peace. He was one of the Citizens Committee 
appointed to greet Gen. Lafayette in 1825, He never married 
but was credited w^ith the paternity of a daughter named Mary 
Ann Christina, upon whom he bestowed a liberal education. 
She married Charles H. DeRome, a Canadian. They became 
involved in a serious difficulty concerning the homicide of 
George Hickman, and were both indicted for it by the grand 
jury, the husband ior murder and the wife as his accomplice. 
The husband was tried at the April term, 1823 of the Circuit 
Court and was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 
the State prison for one year. At the following June term 
the wife was tried and acquitted. Mr. Graeter died in Jan- 
uary, 1880. 


Vincennes enjo^'S the distinction of having been known 
and recognized by name before she was legally born. It was 
mentioned as a "Borough of Vincennes" before any specific 
act of incorporation was ever passed. The first reference to 
it in a legislative act occurs in the Sixth Section of the act of 
the Territorial Legislature locating the University in the 
"Borough of Vincennes," which act was passed in 1806. The 
first act of incorporation was passed the year following on 


September 17, 1807. By this act the following persons were 
created its first Board of Trustees: Robert Buntin, Joshua 
Bond, William Bullitt, Henry Hurst, Charles Smith, Jacob 
Kuykendall, Hyacinth Lasselle, Touissaint Dubois and Peter 

The act declared the Territory inclu(jed within the fol- 
lowing limits to be its boundary: Hart street on the North 
East, the Church lands on the South West, the Wabash 
River on the North West and Eleventh street on the South 
East. These continued to be the limits of the Borough until 
the act of the State Legislature, passed January 3d, 1817, 
annexed Harrison's addition to it, and the limits thus ex- 
tended so remained during the entire existence of the Bor- 
ough organization. The subsequent annexations to include 
the present limits have all been the work of the city organi- 

A number of acts were afterwards passed both by the 
Territorial and State Legislatures amendatory and original in 
character; but a special reference to them would be of no in- 
terest. This Borough organization remained in operation 
until it was superseded by the present city regime. 

An election was held on the 25th day of January, 1856, 
to vote on the question of adopting as the organic law the 
general law of the State for the incorporation of cities. This 
election called out a very light vote, only 255 votes being 
polled, of which 181 were in favor and 74 against the adoption 
of the general law, being an affirmative majority of 107 votes, 
which, however, was sufficient to adopt it as the organic law; 
and the old historic "Borough of Vincennes" ceased to exist 
and the new born ''City of Vincennes" succeeded to its powers 
and franchises. 

The last meeting of the Trustees under the Borough or- 
ganization was held on the 7th day of February, 1856. 

The old borough called to her service many competent 
and trustworthy men. The following officiated in some official 
capacity at different times during its existence: Jacob D. 
Early, George R. C. Sullivan, John Moore, Owen Reily, 



General \Y. Johnston, Elihri Stout, Jolin Ewing, Chiirles H. 
Tillinghast, John Collins, V?ilentine J. Bradley, Andrew 
Gardner, Samuel Hill, Martin Robinson, John C. S. Harri- 
son, Henry D. Wheeler, Pierre LaPknte, Touissant Dubois, 
Abner T. Ellis and Jeremiah Donovan. 

1 cannot pass without a special mention of Mr. Donovan. 
He is as much of an official mark in Vincennes as the Harri- 
son Mansion is a land mark. He was for a series ot years 
Marshal under the borough organization. He never altered 
much in personal appearance, and was about the same at the 
close as he was at the commencement of his official career. 
At the organization of the city government he was thought to 
be too old to act as Marshal. But subsequently he was sev- 
eral times elected to that office, and discharged the duties 
faithfully and well. In 1863 he was a candidate for re-elec- 
tion, but failed to receive a majority of the votes, as his oppo- 
nent, John Witchi, polled a majority over him, but was denied 
possession of the office on account of being of foreign birth 
and without evidences of naturalization, and Mr. Donovan 
continued to hold the office during the entire term. Mr. 
Donovan still lives, but is now entirely blind. 

The first election for officers under the city government 
was held on Tuesday, February 12th, 1856. The entire vote 
then polled was 555. 


Judicial jurisdiction within the Territory in which Vin- 
cennes is situated has been possessed and exercised by various 
courts. Under the Territorial Government there were two of 
general jurisdiction. One was the "General Court" and the 
other the ''Common Pleas.'' 

Upon the General Court was conferred jurisdiction in 
civil, criminal and chancery matters, and it exercised jurisdic- 
tion throughout the territory. Two judges presided in this 
Court. Henry Hurst was clerk of this Court in this county 
until it was superseded by the courts created by the State 
Constitution in 1816. It held terms as a Circuit Court in the 

pAS'i\ piiESEyr AND posPECTs, OF viycEyyEs. 4^ 

various counties of the Territory, which, however, were few 
nrnl of extended territorial limits. Several different persons 
presided in this Court at different times. Henry Vanderburgh 
waa one of its Judges from its organization until his death, 
which occurred on the 5th day of April 1812. He sustained 
the reputation of an upright and hum.ane Judge, and his 
death was generally regretted. He was buried with Masonic 
honors on the farih east of the city now owned by Stephen 
Burnet. Thomas T. Davis, Waller Taylor and Benjamin 
Parke also presidetl as judges in this Court. 

In a session of this Court held here on Friday, the 14th 
day of October, 1808, before Judges Vanderburgh and Parke, 
one Abraham Hiley was indicted for the murder of John Coff- 
man. He was tried the next day by a jury, and found guilty 
as charged, and the death penalty afiSxed, and the same day 
he was sentenced by Judge Vanderburgh, and Saturday, the 
29th of October, 1808, was fixed as the day for the execution 
to take place. On that day he was taken to the gallows to be 
hung, and standing on the drop he received a respite from the 
Governor until the following Tuesday, when he was pardoned, 
to the regret of a large concourse of people who had assem- 
bled to witness his death struggles. 

In the same Court at Kaskaskia, held by Judge Vander- 
burgh, on ihe 31st of October, 1808, two capital cases were 
disposed of. One was that of Merenguin, an Indian, for the 
murder of John Russell. He was tried by a jury, found 
guilty and sentenced and executed on Saturday, November 
19th, 1808. When asked by the court, according to common 
law custom, if he had anything to say why sentence of death 
should not be pronounced upon him, he made the following 

"It is not the great spirit that is depriving me of life, but 
men like myself; and if a white man was in my place he 
would have got clear; but I am a dog and have no friends 
and must die." 

The other case was that of Elisha Hicks, a white man, 
for the murder of Charles Elliott. He was also tried by a 
jury and found not guilty. In discharging the prisoner Judge 
Vanderburgh thus addressed him: 

"You have been indicted for the murder of Charles 



"Elliott. You pleaded not guilty. You have been tried by a 
"jury and they have thought fit to acquit you of a most brutal 
"and shocking murder. It would have been a source of great 
"satisfaction to me, if in the course of your trial, I couhl have 
"discovered a single circumstance that could have cast a doubt 
"over your guilt, or in any way extenuated its enormity, but 
"unfartunately nothing of this kind appeared. Although by 
"this verdict your life is preserved, the guilt of having des- 
"troyed the existence of a fellow creature is fixed and estab- 
"lished beyond a doubt." 

Without a doubt the poor Indian told the truth in his 
simple and affecting speech. 

This court ceased to exist "with the Territorial Govern- 
ment and its records are preserved in the archives of the State 
Government at Indianapolis. 

The Common Pleas was a local and county Court and was 
concerned in settling estates of decedents and minors. 

Since the organization of the State Government this juris- 
diction has been possessed by different Courts. The first in 
the order of time was the "Court of Probate" and the follow- 
ing persons presided as Judges in that Court: 

William Caruthers, William R, McCall, John Ewing, 
John B. Drennon, Henry Ruble, Mark Barnett, Wi'liiam L. 
Colman, William Polke, John Moore and Richard P. Price. 
This Court adjourned Si7ie die, Saturday, August 15, 1829. 

It was succeeded by the "Probate Court," w^hich was 
organized iSeptember 7th, 1829. 

The following persons presided as Judges in that Court: 
William Polke, George W. Ewing, Abner T. Ellis, Robert N. 
Carnan, George R. Gibson, Robert F. McConaghey, John H. 
Harrison, James Thorne and Clark Willis. 

This Court was succeeded by the Court of Common Pleas 
which was organized in this county and held its first term 
January 3d, 1853. This Court had civil jurisdiction to a lim- 
ited amount except in cases of slander and involvirig title to 
real estate. The following persons were Judges in that 
Court: Richard A. Clements Sr., James C. Denny, Richard 
A. Clements Jr., William R. Gardner and James T. Pierce. 


This Court was abolished by act of the Legislature passed 
in 1873, and its business and jurisdiction transferred to the 
Circuit Courts. 

The Clerks of the Circuit Court have been "ex officio'' 
Clerks of all the above Courts. 

The most important Court in dignity and jurisdiction has 
been the Circuit Court. It has always possessed general 
common law and equity jurisdiction both civil and criminal. 
It was first created by an act of the Territorial Legislature, 
passed at Corydon in September, 1814, and the Court was or- 
ganized here and its first term began October 3d, 1814, with 
Isaac Blackburn as President Judge and Daniel Sullivan and 
James McCall as xA.ssociate Judges. 

In the exercise of the highest prerogative that can be 
discharged by any human tribunal this Court in this county 
has inflicted the death penalty in only two instances in the 
following cases: 

On the 28th September, 1822, Thomas McKinney was 
indicted and tried by a jury for the murder of James Boyd. 
John Law and General W. Johnson represented the prose- 
cution and David Hart and Charles Dewey conducted the de- 
fense. He was found guilty as charged and the death penalty 
afiixed. He was sentenced by the Court and publicly exe- 
cuted by John Decker, the Sheriff of the county, on the 15th 
October, 1822, near the location of the Public Cemetery. I 
quote extracts from the long sentence of Judge Call taken 
from the ^'Western Sun" of October 19th, 1822. 

"It has fallen to my lot to tell a fellow being his final 
"doom and fix the last moment beyond which the pulse of 
"life will never beat. * * * Death coming in its usual 
"and natural shape is at all times terrible; it is so to the holy and 
"pious worshippers of God who have no crimen to answer for. 
"Its approaches then, when brought on by one's own wicked 
"deeds, must be viewed with the wildest horror. * * * It 
"is ordered and adjudged by the Court that you be conveyed 
"to the place from* whence you came, there to remain until 
"the 15th day of October inst., and then between the hours of 
"two and three o'clock in the afternoon you be conveyed to a 
"convenient place without the limits of this Borough, and 
* 'there upon a gallows to be erected for that purpose you be 
"hanged by the neck until you are dead." 



On Thursday, the 24th day of March, 1824, William Cox, 
a colored man, was tried by a jury in the Circuit Court for 
committing a rape on Miss Smith. The jury, after a few 
moments consultation, returned a verdict of guilty, and he 
was sentenced by the Court to be hung on the 9th day of 
April, 1824. John Law prosecuted and Charles Dewey and 
Samuel Judah defended. He was publicly executed outside 
the limits of the borough in the angle formed by Harrison's 
Addition and the old borough, now included in Cochran's Ad- 
dition. A rumor was current connected witli this execution 
to the effect that the arrangements for speedily causing death 
being defective, and to hasten the death struggles of the vic- 
tim, Senaca Almy, one of the Sheriff''s assistants, jumped astride 
of his shoulders, and by his super-added weight hastened the 
same, and that for this performance he was rewarded with the 
succession to ihe Sheriffalty. 

Jacob Call was the President Judge at both of the trials, 
and John Decker, who was Sheriff" of the county for four 
years, during his incumbency executed both of the condemned 
criminals, who were the only persons that have ever been 
executed in this county in pursuance of legal process. 

The following persons have presided as Judges of the 
Circuit Court: 

Isaac Blackford, David Raymond, William Prince, Thos. 
tl. Blake, General W. Johnston, Jonathan Doty, Jacob Call, 
John R. Porter, John Law, Amory Kinney, Elisha Hunting- 
ington, William P. Bryant, John Law, Samuel B. Gookins, 
Delana R. Eccles, Alvin P. Hovey, William E. Niblack, Bal- 
lard Smith, Michael F. Burke, James C. Denny, John Baker 
and N. F. Malott. 

The office of Clerk of the Circuit Court is an important 
one. Its records are various and voluminous, and go back as 
far as 1780. The limits of this county originally embraced 
almost the entire State, and its present dimensions have been 
reached by reductions from time to time as new counties were 
formed. Consequently papers and records affecting persons 
and things on the Ohio River on the south, the centre of the 


State on the east, and the Vermillion river on the north, can 
be found among the files and records of this ofiice. The 
records of the Recorder's office were destroyed by fire on the 
21st of January, 1814, and the oldest record in that office at 
present dated only to May 26th, 1814. But no such misfor- 
tune ever befei the Clerk's office, and its records go back 
much farther. The first administration granted was in 1790, 
on the estate of James Bradford. The first marriage license 
issued was to Benjamin V. Beckes and Sarah Harbin, Feb. 
11, 1807. 

The following persons have been Clerks of the Circuit 
Court in the order named. 

Robert Buntin, Homer Johnson, Daniel C. Johnson, 
Alexander D. Scott, William R. McCord, William Denny, 
Henry S. Cauthorn, Aquilla P. Woodall, William B. Robin- 
son and George R. Alsop. 

The Vincennes bar has ahvays ranked high in and out of 
the State. It has numbered among its members such distin- 
guished names as IVIoses Tabbs, Charles Dewey, David Hart, 
William Prince, Jacob Call, Thomas Randolph, Thomas H. 
Blake, Alexander Buckner, George R. C. Sullivan, John 
Johnson, Edward A. Hannegan, Isaac Blackford, Benjamin 
Parke, Samuel Judah, Benjamin M. Thomas, John Law, 
Abner T. Ellis, Cyrus M. Allen, and many others of ability. 
The following gentlemen are now resident and practicing 
members of the Vincennes bar. 

Frederick W. Yiehe, James C. Denny, Henry S. Cau- 
thorn, George G. Reily, William H, DeWolf, John M. Boyle, 
Smiley N. Chambers, Thomas R. Cobb, Orlando H. Cobb, 
William F. Pidgeon, William C. Johnson, William A. Cullop, 
George W. Shaw, Lewis C. Meyer, Benjamin M. Willoughby, 
William C. Niblack, Robert G. Evans, James S. Pritchett, 
James P. L. Weems, Samuel W. Williams, Orlan F. Baker, 
John Wilhelm, Charles M. Wetzel, Charles G. McCord, 
Edward Cooper, Frank Bloom, John T. Goodman, Mason J. 
Niblack, Frank Shannon, John C. Adams and John S. Long. 



Educational, Religious and Charitable 

There is no city in the State that hohls out inducements 
to attract persons as to educational, religious and charitable 
iustitutions superior to Vincennes. 

The Vincennes University has a handsome endowment 
fund, possesses large and magnificent buildings, second to 
none in the State in point of architecture, and constructed 
with due regard to health, comfort and convenience, and prac- 
tically free to all, and oiFers first class advantages, equal to 
any college in the West. 

The public schools of our city are of the highest order of 
merit. The school buildings already erected are large and 
equal in construction and ornamentation any similar struc- 
tures in any city, and the schools are efficient and conducted 
by able and accomplished professors, and are not excelled 

The Catholics have also large and elegant buildings 
erected for their separate use that are equal in every re- 
spect to the public schools, in which are maintained schools 
for all nationalities and for both sexes, presided over by moral, 
accomplished and skilled professors, and which are also free 
to all. 

The Lutheran and the Evangelical denominations are 
also well provided with separate school buildings and main- 
tain schools for both sexes in all respects equal to those 
already named. These various school facilities are possessed 
by no other single city in the State, and in this respect Vin- 
cennes occupies a superior position, affording school facilities 
to suit all tastes and caprices. 

The churches of the city are numerous and commodious, 
and in many cases are splendid specimens of architectural 
design, and represent all the leading denominations of reli- 
gious belief — Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Chris- 
tian, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Evangelical, and take in all 
nationalities and both colors. Several of the churches in our 
city are genuine specimens of architectual beauty and finish 


th:»t no city in the State can equal and which contain rare 
works of art nnd interior decoration that attract and com- 
mand the attention and acjmiration of amnteiirs and lovers 
of art, 

St. Vincent's Catholic Orphan Asylum for boys is one of 
the largest and most commodious structures of the kind in 
this country, affording ample accommodation for 500 chil- 
dren, and as its. massive and stately proportions loom up 
against the 'sky in silent grandeur its presence cheers and 
buoys up the heart as a perpetual reminder that the helpless 
ones will not be without shelter and protection should disaster 
come and paralyze the strong arm of their natural support. 
These fixed and assured evidences of a Christian and enlight- 
ened civilization are mighty magnets to attract here all those 
who desire these advantages and blessings, and which can all 
be had and enjoyed without the delay and expense, of build- 
ing, and in combination as. tuey exist here are found in no 
other city in the State. 

Agricultural and Mineral Resources. 

No city can expect to attract and maintain a dense popu- 
lation without adequate resources. They must have a sure 
and unfailing base upon which to depend to supply the wants 
and the necessities of the laboring classes. 

Vincennes is highly favored in this regard by location and 
its surroundings. Situated in one of the finest agricultural 
portions of the West, it has for support that great and para- 
mount interest which is really the corner stone upon which 
rests all other industries and enterprises. The counties of 
Crawford, Richland, Jasper, Wabash and Lawrence in Illinois, 
and the counties of Sullivan, Greene, Daviess, Pike, Gibson 
and Knox in Indiana, in which it is centrally located, are by 
nature tributary to this city, and it should be the granary for 
their surplus products. These twelve counties that surround 
our city are not surpassed anywhere for fertility and product- 


iveness of their soils. It ca;.not be said that all these courr 
ties are directly tributary to this city. Each of them have 
local points which their citizens ordinarily seek to sell their 
products and purchase supplies. But they frequently go 
beyond these ordinary avenues of trade, and when they do so 
then Vincennes is always the objective point. 

Agriculture is yet as it were in its infancy here. For 
years the rich and productive prairies of Illinois were annu- 
ally wasted by the overflow of the waters of" the Wabash 
river during seasons of floods. And in our own county, vast 
arcus, sufficient to form a good sized county, have remained 
unproductive and useless in consequence ot the presence of 
stagnant surfice water. But all this has been changed within 
the last few years, and the work of improvement is still pro- 
gressing. The Wabash river, by the guardian presence of a 
substantial levee, is now forbidden to enter the precincts of 
the prairies across the river, and drainage and ditching has 
(b^ubled tiie tillability of Knox county lands. We occupy 
a central position in an agricultural district that will compare 
favorably with" any other either in or out of the State. 

In mineral resources but few cities in the West are so 
favorably circumstanced. We are in the very heart of the 
coal region of the State. Sullivan and Daviess counties have 
abundant supplies already developed. The veins of coal in 
Pike county are yet in a primitive state, owing to the want of 
suitable facilities to throw it on the market, but in richness 
and quality they have no equals anywhere. There are veins 
of coal in that county, easy of access, from 8 to 12 feet thick, 
and inexhaustible in quantity, and Vincennes will eventually be 
the depot for that coal when it is placed on the market. Our 
own county is full of coal of superior quality, easy to reach 
and make available, and the supply abundant. These coal 
resources will insure cheap fuel to drive the wheels of indus- 
try and enterprise for all wants and purposes for all time. 



Vincennes has every facility to become a manufacturing? 
centre. The immense supplies of coal within easy reach at a 
trifling cost, and the abundant supply of timber of the best 
quality and of all kinds that the surrounding forests contain, 
furnish the raw material to accomplish the result aided by 
our bountiful harvest to feed the masses. With the raw ma- 
terial to manufacture and the fuel to insure cheap motive 
pDwer to render its manufacture remunerative, and abundant 
supplies of breadrtuffs, we only nebd the creative and stimu- 
lating co-operation of capital and labor to realize upon these 
sources ot prosperity and wealth. Both are sure to come 
sooner or later, and the times now indicate the nearness of 
the approach, if they do not evidence their actual presence. 
Vincennes has already secured and available avenues for 
trade and communication sufficient for all purposes for the 
speedy and safe distribution of its surplus produce and manu- 
factured articles to any part of th© world. The Wabash river 
will always be a natural highway and a feeder for the trade 
of this city. It may never be u great thoroughfare over 
which manufactured goods an (f surplus goods will pass seek- 
ing the markets of the world. But as I have said it will 
always be a sure and reliable artery for local traffic, and its 
advantages in this respect cannot be over-estimated. 

But we have avenues of commerce constructed with a 
view of meeting and 'supplying actual wants and necessities 
that open up to our city not only all the cardinal, but other 
points of the compass. 

The Ohio and Mississippi Railroad connects us directly 
with the Ohio river at Cincinnati on the East, and the Mis- 
sissippi river at St. Louis on the west. The EvansviUe and 
Terre Houte Railroad connects us with the Ohio river at 
Svansville, on the South, and with Lake Michigan at Chicago 
on the north; the Indianapolis and Vincennes Railroad con- 
nects us with the State capital and the great railroad centre 
of the west, on the north east; and the Cairo and Vincennes 
Railroad connects us with the "Father of Waters" at the 
junction of the OhiojOn-t^e south west. These great artih- 


cial avenues of trade that have revolutionized the ordinary 
course of events, and by their creating and controlling influ- 
ences build up and sustain cities and centres of wealth and pop- 
ulation at places wheresoever wanted, regardless of natural ad- 
vantages and facilities, are sufficient for all practical purposes, 
and when the time comes when our railroad system as now de- 
veloped shall be supplemented by one yet to be built, and in a 
prudent and business like way, and subservient to our interest 
and under the control of the people of tliis city, to the coal 
fields of Pike county, which I trust will be in the near future, 
then the measure of our w^ints as far as commercial facilities 
are concerned or involved will be full to overflowing. 

Material Progress in the Past. 

The progress of Vincennes in the past has not been of 
mushroom growth. The path she has traced in material pro- 
gress does not resemble the path of the meteor through the 
sky. It has been slow, steady and sure. It has not been 
stimulated or pressed onward by any undue or outside influ- 
ences. In tact it has advanced in defiance of the neglect and 
unjust discrimination of legislative appropriations and enact- 
ments. Although it was the first home of civilization in the 
State, and the first seat of the civil power, around which rose 
the dawn of her brilliancy, and should have been fostered, 
encouraged and promoted, it has on the contrary been pur- 
posely overlooked and denied any of the stimulating aids of 
State care and assistance. It was attempted to despoil her by 
legislative interference of the Vincennes University; the 
lavish appropriations by the State for internal improvements 
were all wasted elsewhere, and the place was unjustly discrim- 
inated against in ihe location of the Wabash and Erie Canal. 
Yet it has by virtue of its own resources advanced onward, 
and to-day rests on a solid and sure basis. We have as fine 
schools, religious and public buildings as any city in the 
State, and a magnificent and durable stone court house, beside 
which there is nothing in the State to compare outside of the 
city of Indianapolis, and all have been built and paid for out 
of our own resources. 


The taxable property of the city indicates a steady and 
healthy increase, and in 1883 amounted to $3,784,495.00. 

The influx and flow of population has also been steadily 
on the increase, as evidenced by the votes cast at municipal 
elections since the organization of the city. At the first elec- 
tion for officers under the city organization, February 12, 
1856, only 555 votes were polled. At the last election for 
city officers on May 1, 1883, the vote polled was 1,679, 

The post office business of any town is a faithful index of 
its social and business status. Our post office transactions 
show a steady and healthy increase. In August, 1883, a dull 
month in business circles, the receipts of the post office were 
SlOO in excess over the receipts for August, 1882. The post 
office here yields the Post Office Department over $8,000 per 

The improvement of the material appearance of the city 
may be measured by the changed aspect of its surface from 
the topographical aspect as I have heretofore described it. 
The elevations have been leveled and the depressions have 
been filled until almost the entire territory included within 
the city limits has been brought to a perfect and uniform 
grade. The streets of our city are now justly our pride and 
pleasure. Although the geographical formation is gravel, it 
is of a species that does not remain in detached particles, but 
readily adheres and forms a cement and roadw^ay as solid as 
adamant. When first removed from its position beneath the 
surface it presents a dull reddish color, but on exposure to 
the light and air it soon bleaches and assumes a white and 
shining appearance, thus giving to our streets the appear- 
ance of threads of silver winding through avenues edged with 
green. Within the city limits it is possible to pass in a 
buggy or carriage over clean, dry streets as smooth and level 
as a floor, and accomplish a distance equal to 40 miles without 
twice passing over the same ground. And when this circuit 
is completed, and one is tired of the view of city surround- 
ings, the immediate suburbs around the city furnish drives 
over smooth and hard gravel roads, prepared by nature, mean- 
dering through "the trembling groves, the crystal running by." 


And the streets of Vincennes are always dry and hard, 
allowing surface water to percolate through as a sieve, leaving 
none to stagnate and engender miasma and sow the seeds of 
disease and death. They aiford at all seasons of the year a 
comfortable passage way for business or pleasure. 

And the material structures of the city have assumed a 
new and modern aspect. The first structures here and until 
quite recently were of wood, and many built of logs set on 
end and the interstices filled with mud. A few of these old 
time structures still remain. One is the last house on the 
north west side of lower Sixth street said to date from 1792. 
But very few of them remain, not more than two or three in 
the whole city. As it appears to-day it is in fact the creation 
of the past few years. Although it has a history and a record 
reaching back to a time "whereof the memory of man run- 
neth not to the contrary," yet it is like an old man who has 
doffed his old clothes and put on new ones. 

Prospective Possibilities in Future. 

We regard the prospects of Vincennes as not only en- 
couraging but flattering. Rip Van Winkle slept for twenty 
years, and awoke to a new order of things. So it is with Vin- 
cennes. In former years the population here did not devote 
their time and talents with a view to material progress. The 
pleasures and amusements of the world absorbed their atten- 
tion. But a new system has been evolved from the change of 
population and circumstances. The hard working and pru- 
dent German has come, the energetic and prolific Irishmen 
are here, and other races have been infused into the mass of 
our population, and the infusion is telling in the evidences 
all around of accomplished results. The sharp visaged and 
money making "Yankee" has been attracted hither, and the 
keen and discerning "Jew," who can smell interest as far oif 
as the blood hound his prey, are now to be seen on our streets. 
In fact everything is indicative of a glorious future for Vin- 
cennes. I have never for a moment lost faith or doubted its 
ultimate prosperity. I founded my hopes and anticipations 


upon the discriminating prescience of the Jesuit missionary 
fathers. When they first beheld the site of our city in the 
wilderness, they marked it as the future location of a city, as 
they did Detroit, St. Louis, Dubuque, Fort Wayne, Chicago 
and other centres of trade and population in the Mississippi 
valley. They never made a mistake in their predictions, 
unless it should have been in the judgment they formed of the 
future of Vincennes. But why should Vincennes be an ex- 
ception? Everything indicates that we are on the eve of the 
realization of golden dreams, and that the dull and monoto- 
nous past will be swallowed up and forgotten in the brilliant 
achievements of the opening future. 


I have endeavored to give a brief sketch of some of the 
more important events connected with the past of Vincennes. 
I know the performance is imperfect, and request charity in 
criticising the manner of execution. It has been performed 
as a duty, as I fully appreciate the poetic expression of the 
^'Wizard of the North:" 

"Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, 

Who never to himself hath said, 

This is my own, my native land?" 
I was born in this city over half a century ago, and have 
here passed my infancy, the freshness ol youth and the vigor 
of manhood. I now survey the retrospect with pleasure, and 
if I could, have no desire to change the record. Although 
my life struggle has not resulted in a golden harvest, has in 
fact often been attended with periods of gloom and depression, 
occasionifig doubts whether it were not better to turn the 
loved ones over to the purchased bounty of life companies, 
rather than risk the uncertain rewards of future employments, 
yet as an epitome of the whole, after slightly chan-ing I 
adopt the sentiments expressed by Ruth to Naomi, "Entreat 
me not to leave you or cease my connection with you, for your 
fate shall be my fate, and here will 1 be buried." 


014 753 897 2 # 

p4^ :^ 

\^r' h